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NFPA 101

The Life Safety Code, known as NFPA 101 provides standards written to minimize the effects of hazards created by fires in buildings.  NFPA 101 standards apply to the design, construction and use of buildings, including establishing criteria for stairwells, exit paths and exits.  NFPA 101 also covers protective systems, maintenance and building services needed for safety.

The NFPA 101 code is not directly enforced by law. NFPA is a private organization that can not make laws.  However, NFPA 101 is commonly adopted as a part of local building codes, which do have the force of law and are enforced by building inspectors, fire marshals and zoning officials.  Even when not adopted as a part of a local building code, NFPA 101 is used by insurance companies to determine liability should there be a fire or accident.  So even if not required by law, compliance with NFPA 101 should be considered mandatory.

Unlike other codes, local building codes usually apply the standards established in NFPA 101 retroactively to existing buildings, as well as to new construction. 

To give you a feel for what NFPA 101 covers, the following are some of the NFPA 101 chapter titles:

  • Means of Egress
  • Features of Fire Protection
  • Building Service and Fire Protection Equipment
  • Interior Finish, Contents and Furnishings

NFPA 101 has specific sections dedicated to certain types of buildings. There are two chapters for each of the following. One for new structures and the other for existing structures:

  • Assembly Occupancies (“assembly” refers to a gathering of 50 or more persons)
  • Educational Buildings
  • Day-Care Buildings
  • Health Care Buildings
  • Ambulatory (outpatient) Health Care Buildings
  • Detention and Correctional Facilities
  • One and Two-Family Dwellings
  • Lodging and Rooming Houses
  • Hotels and Dormitories
  • Apartment Buildings
  • Buildings Used For Residential Board and Care
  • Retail and Wholesale Stores
  • Office Buildings
  • Industrial Buildings

NFPA 101 Requirement For Marking Exits and Stairwells.

NFPA 101 Section 7.2.2.5.4 Stairway Identification and Section 7.2.2.5.5 Exit Stair Path Markings provide the overall standards for marking exits and stairwells.

Effective January 2009, NFPA 101 section 7.2.2.5.5, which covers all buildings of all heights, requires that exit stair paths be marked using photoluminescent materials such as DuraLabel Bold Glow Phosphorescent Tapes. NFPA chapter 11 details the specific requirements for high-rise buildings (defined as buildings 75 feet or taller).

NFPA 101 section 7.2.2.5.5.10 requires that exit stair paths be marked with photoluminescent materials that do not require an electric charge to maintain luminescence.

Photoluminescent markings work by absorbing energy from a light source. When the light falls below a certain level, the photoluminescent marking will begin to emit the stored energy as light resulting in it glowing in the dark. This means they must be "charged" before they can glow.

The greater the intensity of the light, the less time required to fully charge the label or sign. Typical recharge times are in the range from 30 to 60 minutes. This will provide a full eight hours of glowing. NFPA 101 7.2.2.5.5.11 requires that exit enclosures where photoluminescent materials are installed be continuously illuminated for at least 60 minutes prior to periods when the building is occupied.

NFPA 101 requires that photoluminescent marking tapes, such as DuraLabel Bold Glow Phosphorescent Tapes, be used to mark handrails, stair treads, landings, exit passageways and other areas. They should be used to outline doorways, and installed in such a way as to identify doorways that do not lead to exits.

In addition to marking with tape, all doors going into an exit enclosure must have a sign with the NFPA 170 emergency exit symbol that is at least 4" in height, with a luminescent background.

DuraLabel luminescent supplies include DuraLabel Bold Glow tapes. DuraLabel Bold Glow Tapes are rated at 146 mcd/m for 10 minutes and 23 mcd/m for 60 minutes. NFPA 101 paragraph 7.2.2.5.5.10(1)(b) requires the minimum luminance of 5 mcd/m2 after 90 minutes. DuraLabel Bold Glow tapes meet this requirement.

Call 1-888-326-9244 for more information about complying with NFPA 101 requirements for phosphorescent signs and marking.

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